As D21 contemplates another run at a school bond, it asked bond underwriters to come up with a new set of figures: a new high school would cost $100 million and cost taxpayers $3 per $1,000 of assessed property valuation over 25 years.
Alternatively, if the board asked voters only to continue paying the same amount that is being levied now for the middle school bond, which is paid off in 2020, that would yield about $1.64 per $1,000. That would give the district $54 million in a 25-year bond, enough to build a single elementary school and do a few other things, Superintendent Candy Armstrong said.
Only property owners in the former District 12, which represents two-thirds of the property value of D21, are paying the middle school bond. Property owners in the former District 9 are not paying for the middle school, so it would “be a heavier lift” for those taxpayers, she said.
Included in the calculations was the gradual addition of a total of $950 million in local property valuation as the three Google projects come on the tax rolls in 2022, 2031 and 2035.
Randy Anderson, chief financial officer for North Wasco County School District 21, said the numbers from the bond underwriters were conservative.
It estimates annual growth in the tax base of 3 percent, when it has been running 5 percent. It also projects a 92 percent tax collection rate, when it was 96 percent last year, he said.
As the district considers going to voters for a bond again, it has started a long-range planning process as a necessary prerequisite to qualifying for $4 million in state grants.
Three long-range planning sessions are planned in the coming months. All are open to the public and anyone can come. They will be held from 6-8 p.m. at The Dalles Middle School Library on Tuesday, Oct. 8, Tuesday Nov. 5 and Tuesday Dec. 10.
The district also got population estimates from Portland State University, which forecast district enrollment growing by less than 100 students over 10 years. The district has held steady at roughly 3,000 enrollment.
Armstrong cautioned the research was based partially on census data that is nine years old. New data comes out in a year.
D21 officials recently met with other taxing entities in the area, with a goal of sharing their respective long-term goals and how to meet them, given they all depend on the same tax base.
Armstrong said they learned that no other taxing entity is planning to go to voters for a bond issue, but they also learned “we all have challenges.”
Board Chair John Nelson said he learned there are a variety of ways local taxing entities get revenue. Some are mostly dependent on local property tax dollars and some are mostly or entirely funded by grants, he said.
The three Google projects were built under agreements that exempted them from property taxes for 15 years each. The first exemption ends in 2022 and the underwriter estimates it would add $150 million in valuation to tax rolls. The second comes on tax rolls in 2031 and would add an estimated $200 million in valuation. The third project comes on the tax rolls in 2035 and would add an estimated $600 million valuation.
When the Google properties go on the tax rolls, they would be beneficial for the district in terms of bonds, but the increase in property valuation will not result in more money to schools.
Anderson said, for example, in the 2017-18 tax year, if Google had paid taxes it would’ve been about $10 million, and D21’s share of that would’ve been $3 million.
But, if the district were to get $3 million more in taxes from Google, then the state would simply give the district $3 million less in state funding, he said.
Nelson said it was “very eye-opening” that D21 won’t see a cash infusion when Google properties go on the tax rolls.
The school district asked voters last fall to approve a $235 million, 50-year bond authority that would’ve issued a total of five bonds over 20 years and replaced the high school and three elementaries, plus funded other work. It failed by a wide margin, with only a 40 percent yes vote. It called for a tax rate of no more than $2.99 per $1,000.